Tag Archives: World War II

‘The Eyes of the World Are Upon You’ … D-Day 73 Years Later

[Today marks 73 years since the D-Day invasion. A year ago the small community of Bedford, Virginia, commemorated the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord. Here are photos from that day (see also Part 2).]

DSCN1760 (2)“Fifty-seven years ago, America and the nations of Europe formed a bond that has never been broken. And all of us incurred a debt that can never be repaid. Today, as America dedicates our D-Day Memorial, we pray that our country will always be worthy of the courage that delivered us from evil and saved the free world.”
–President George W. Bush (at National D-Day Memorial dedication, June 6, 2001)

Monday, June 6, 2016, was a day for sights and sounds and memories and stories from some of the few remaining veterans who survived June 6, 1944. It was the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord — the allied invasion of Normandy, known as D-Day — that marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

Exiting the four-lane highway in Bedford and turning onto Overlord Drive, it is a quiet drive through open fields up the hill to a place of reverence and thankfulness. Surrounded by the peaceful Virginia countryside with the Blue Ridge Mountains, including Sharp Top and Flat Top mountains that form the Peaks of Otter in the distance, the National D-Day Memorial provides an opportunity to learn and reflect on a pivoting event in America’s — and the world’s — history.

The overwhelming extent of the sacrifices made as well as the huge operation that involved 150,000 Allied troops, 5,000 ships, 11,000 aircraft, and huge losses of more than 9,000 Allied soldier who died, including 2,499 American soldiers, in the largest amphibious landing the world has ever seen, was sobering. The liberation of Europe began that day and, though the war would continue for almost a year longer, the Normandy invasion gave Allied forces an opening to begin working their way across Europe to defeat Hitler.

Thankfully, the vision of D-Day veteran Bob Slaughter to have a national site to remember and honor those involved was achieved, and the National D-Day Memorial was dedicated on June 6th, 2001, by President George W. Bush.

My husband and I arrived early on Monday and stayed into the afternoon — attending the 11am ceremony, strolling the grounds, reading the historical plaques, and listening to the roll call of names. We left with a renewed appreciation for the Greatest Generation. Below are photos that capture a small part of the day. May we never forget.


Why Bedford for the national memorial? As explained in the video, the memorial is a reminder of the extreme sacrifice the small Virginia town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains made during the invasion on June 6, 1946. They lost more men per capita than any other location in America. Of the 30 Bedford soldiers in Company A, 19 perished that day and four others during the war. That sacrifice by the Bedford Boys was the reason their town was chosen as the site for the national memorial. For photos of the memorial’s tribute to the Bedford Boys, see 72 years later … the Bedford Boys.

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For the first time ever the roll call of the names of the 2,499 Americans killed on D-Day was read by volunteers whose voices could be heard  throughout the memorial’s grounds. The honoring of the fallen continued for three hours into the afternoon with names read by veterans, families, volunteers, and dignitaries.

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Virginia Soldier Died in Battle at Germany’s Siegfried Line

??????????[Editor’s Note: On March 21, 1945, the uncle I never knew was killed just six weeks before the end of World War II in Europe. He was 27 years old, my mother’s oldest brother. She was a student at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Virginia, when her brother Clarence, the oldest of nine siblings, paid the ultimate sacrifice. She still remembers her mother’s reaction that fateful day when the official government car drove up the driveway of her parents’ Chesterfield County farm many decades ago, and how her mother’s knees buckled as she realized the presence of that car meant her son was not coming home. Mom says her mother, who lived into her 80s, never got over the loss.

After retiring from her job, Mom spent hours researching to fill the void of not knowing exactly what happened to her brother and, through her research, eventually found Clarence’s sergeant, Dock Roberts, living in Texas. Another soldier buddy, Emelio Albert, lived in California. She traveled to both places to talk with them to learn about her brother’s journey as a U.S. Army soldier through war-torn Europe, and his final hours, and she documented the treasured research for our family history. This is her story. I have edited and included links to more detailed historical accounts.]

Italian Campaign
The Italian Campaign was one of the most difficult of World War II. Some of the most exhausting battles for foot soldiers took place in Italy with its rugged mountains, and heavy snows in the winter of 1943 were followed by extensive cold rains in the late winter and spring of 1944. The ground turned into a quagmire and foxholes were filled with water. Mud was so deep it was nearly impassable for vehicles as well as men on foot. By the summer of 1944, the dry weather turned the earth to dust which swirled at the least disturbance. The Division veterans’ most vivid memories of the Italian fighting were the weather and terrain.

Clarence was sent from Virginia to the Texas National Guard as they replenished their ranks, and spent 15 months as a First Gunner in the Mortar Squad. Their Division played a big role in the war, joining other American forces in the liberation of the little town of San Pietro, located in southern Italy, from the Germans.

From there they battled their way to the Riviera in southern France, and onward to the northern border of France plus one day in Germany. Clarence was killed in the last great battle of the 36th Division of the 1st Battalion, Company D, 143rd Infantry Regiment of the Texas National Guard.
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‘I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day’ … remembering our U.S. troops around the world

By Lynn R. Mitchell

My dad, who passed away in 1975, was a U.S. Navy veteran who served on the USS Wisconsin during World War II. He was 19 years old when he went to war. Later in his life, while I was growing up, he was a Sunday School teacher for 12-year-old boys in our church.

Dad’s favorite Christmas hymn was, “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day,” because his service during the war had made the words even more meaningful to him. I think of him every year when this song is played.

For Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the words of the song came from personal tragedy, as heard in the narrative by actor Ed Herman with music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This year, in the wake of the loss of six American military members in Afghanistan in recent days, the words are even more poignant to a mourning nation.

Our military men and women are working this Christmas, many far from home and away from their families. Let us remember those currently deployed to Afghanistan and other places around the world as well as here on the homeland who protect our freedoms and keep us safe.

This is in memory of my Dad, and for all our military members, past and present.

I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1863)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Originally posted in 2006

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Veterans Day 2015 … their service and sacrifice protect our freedom

By Lynn R. Mitchell

“For those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.”

Veterans Day 2015. Today we honor those who have served and sacrificed to protect our freedom.

At LynnRMitchell.com, we honor two of our own who are veterans and thank them for their dedication to God and country. Marine veteran Daniel Cortez is a Vietnam vet who was wounded in 1970 and was decorated for extraordinary heroism in combat, and managing editor Kurt Michael is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers veteran.

My husband, a Southeast Asia-Vietnam era Air Force veteran, is flying American flags in front of our home along with the POW-MIA flag, a reminder of those who did not come back. My parents are visiting this week so we have a World War II Navy veteran in the house; my late father was also a World War II Navy vet. Brother-in-law Jon served in the Army as well as cousin John, and another cousin Jim served in the reserves.

Grandfathers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors … heroes surround us.

As then-Governor Bob McDonnell, himself a U.S. Army veteran, noted in 2012, “The sacrifice of these heroes and their families makes it possible for us to continue to live and to freely pursue our dreams here in the greatest nation this world has ever known. Freedom is not free. Our brave veterans remind us of that every day. … I urge all Virginians to once again renew our pledge to all of those who are serving and have served: an eternally grateful Commonwealth and country stand forever ready to serve you. … We can’t just stop and recognize our heroes on one day. We must recognize them, serve them, and thank them every day. Our liberty depends upon their sacrifice.”

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

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Seneca Rocks, a West Virginia natural wonder

By Lynn R. Mitchell

18The sheer cliffs of Seneca Rocks, with a peak accessible only by trained rock climbers, is located in West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest at the intersection of Rt. 33 and Rt. 55. It was used by the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division in 1943 and 1944 as troops trained to scale Italy’s Apennines Mountains during World War II’s Italian Campaign. Photos do not begin to do justice to this unusual natural landmark that rises straight out of the surrounding forest.

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‘IL SILENZIO’ … ‘The Silence,’ a haunting reminder of war

Buona notte, amore … ti vedrò nei miei sogni. Buona notte a te che sei lontana.

Good night, love … I’ll see you in my dreams. Good night to you who are far away.

By Calvin T. Lucy Jr.
Guest Post

“The Silence.”*

About  six miles from Maastricht, in the Netherlands, lie buried 8,301 American soldiers who died during World War II’s “Operation Market Garden” in the  battles to liberate Holland in the fall and winter of 1944. “Operation Market Garden” was an unsuccessful and very costly battle during World War II. It was proposed by British General Bernard Montgomery to secure one bridge at Caen in the Netherlands as a Rhine River crossing near the end of the war. U.S. General George Patton succeeded in crossing the Rhine later using a pontoon bridge constructed under fire by U.S. Army engineers.

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On this day in 1945 … the final hours of Clarence Osborne, U.S. Army

??????????By Lynn R. Mitchell

On this day in 1945, the uncle I never knew was killed in Europe just six weeks before the end of World War II. He was my mother’s oldest brother. She was a student at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Virginia, when her brother Clarence, the oldest of nine siblings, died. She still remembers her mother’s reaction that fateful day when the official government car drove up the driveway of their Chesterfield County farm many decades ago, and how her mother’s knees buckled as she realized the presence of that car meant her son had been killed. Mom says her mother, who lived into her 80s, never completely got over the loss.

After retiring, Mom spent hours researching to fill the void of not knowing exactly what happened to her brother and eventually found Clarence’s sergeant, Dock Roberts, living in Texas. Another soldier buddy, Emelio Albert, lived in California. She traveled to both places to talk with them to learn about her brother’s journey as a U.S. Army soldier through war-torn Europe and his final hours, and she documented the treasured research for our family history.

Italian Campaign
The Italian Campaign was one of the most difficult of World War II, and some of the most difficult battles for foot soldiers were in Italy which was very mountainous with heavy snows in the winter of 1943 and heavy cold rains in the late winter and spring of 1944. The earth turned into a quagmire and foxholes were filled with water. Mud was so deep it was nearly impassable for vehicles as well as men on foot. In the summer of 1944, the ground turned to dust which swirled at the least disturbance. The unit veterans’ most vivid memories of the Italian fighting was the weather and terrain.

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Remembering Iwo Jima 70 years later … ‘uncommon valor was a common virtue’

Alex Davis 2a By Alex Davis
Guest Post

February 19, 1945 … 70 years ago today the war in the Pacific is raging. In order to effectively and safety bomb Tokyo into submission, the Allies need a place for planes to emergency land and refuel if needed. The volcanic islands of Iwo Jima serve that exact purpose and they must be taken at all costs if victory in the Pacific is to be obtained. In the midst of all this is PFC John Felix Collie, my great-uncle.

Attached to the 9th Regiment of the 3rd Division of the US Marine Corps, Felix was in one of the very first waves to assault the island of Iwo Jima. The 9th Regiment had the distinction (a distinction which left the Regiment bloodied and battered) of being part of the main body who secured the first stretch of high ground against the entrenched Japanese forces.

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Shenandoah Valley has lost another of the greatest generation

By Lynn R. Mitchell

A sad loss this week for Polly Campbell, long-time volunteer for the Republican Party of Virginia and secretary of RPV’s state central committee for 40 years. Her husband, Loren, passed away on Tuesday after losing his battle with pneumonia.  I have written in the past about Polly and her connection to Shenandoah National Park (see Polly Yager Campbell … growing up in the shadow of Shenandoah National ParkLunch with Polly Campbell … surprise presentation of RPV resolution, Resolution honoring Polly Campbell for 50 years with Republican Party of Virginia, Judge James Turk … ‘his one wish was to become a judge’).

Our thoughts and prayers are with Polly and her family at this sad time with gratitude to Loren for his service to our country.

December 18, 1922 – January 6, 2015

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Pearl Harbor and 9/11 … have we forgotten?

Pearl Harbor 1By Lynn R. Mitchell

Today is December 7th … Pearl Harbor Day.

December 7, 1941 … 73 years ago America suffered the worst attack ever on our soil at the hands of the Japanese who conducted a sneak attack on our Naval base in Hawaii. It was, in the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “a date which will live in infamy.”

Or so we thought.

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Veterans Day 2014 … honoring all who served

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Dr. Rob Marsh and Pastor Greg Mayo

By Lynn R. Mitchell

“Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” –John 15:13

The older gentleman slowly made his way to the front of the banquet room to the sound of applause from the crowd of more than 300 gathered to honor local military veterans. It was the day set aside for them, and in this gathering he was one of three left standing in the “over 90” group of vets — he was 93 — in the “who is the oldest veteran” recognition. What he revealed to the crowd brought everyone to tears.
He was, he said, one of the first soldiers on Omaha Beach that long-ago day in 1944 in the invasion that saw thousands of Allied forces killed.

In September an invitation was extended from a friend whose church decided to honor local military veterans on Veterans Day:

Thank you for serving our country and protecting our freedoms!

On Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, Cornerstone Church of Augusta is hosting a Veterans Day Banquet at 6:30 p.m. Our guest speaker is Dr. Rob Marsh, former Delta Force Medic. Tickets are free for veterans and a guest.

By the time Veterans Day rolled around, all 300 tickets had been distributed with a waiting list of dozens. Our friend, who was on the committee that organized the event, obtained permission so I could write about the dinner and take photos.

We picked up two neighbors who rode with us to Cornerstone Church of Augusta in Fishersville. One is a Korean War veteran (see Korean War vet survived behind enemy lines), and the other is the widow of a Vietnam War Army tunnel rat who passed away in June (see Passings: Honoring a Vietnam Veteran and Husband, Neighbor, Friend, Military Vet: Saying Goodbye).

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Mom’s Thomas Dale Class of ’44 reunion

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Mom Class of '44 reunion 2014

Back row: Eula (Osborne) Lucy, Lawrence “Larry” Klebert and Mary Arline (Wray) McGuire. Front: Ruth Martin Schrum, Sarah (Hanchey) Boettger and Beverley McLeod VonCanon.

The invitation to the Thomas Dale Class of 1944 reunion to celebrate 70 years since graduating read:

“Seventy years ago, June 7, 1944, we began a life as highly intelligent high school graduates. (At least our teachers did their best and each of us would have confessed “we knew it all.”) That day we said goodbye to our friends we had been with during the greater part of our days for the past eleven school years. We had done a lot of growing up during this time and had many memories. A few of those left on your original reunion committee decided we would get together on June 7, 2014 for lunch and catching up.”

So exactly 70 years later, this group of octogenarians met at a restaurant in Chester to reminisce. Reporter Melissa Wilfong joined them to record their thoughts for the Chester Village News (see Reminiscing with the Class of ’44). There were 57 who graduated on that day in 1944 and though only six could make the reunion, approximately a dozen of the graduates survive.

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70 years after Operation Overlord … D-Day 1944

D Day bannerBy Lynn R. Mitchell

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord, known to many as D-Day. The invasion that marked the turning point of World War II began in the early hours of June 6, 1944, when more than 1,200 airplanes provided airborne assault as 5,000 sea vessels took part in landing troops on the beaches of Normandy. It remains the largest amphibious landing in history involving 160,000 troops. More than 9,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded.

The sacrifices of so many helped secure the freedoms of countless. How many will keep the observance alive even as the Greatest Generation dies off and the memories fade?

One family’s wordsmith kept the memory of sacrifice and loss alive after penning a Memorial Day column some years ago. Lee Wolverton, then publisher and editor of the Waynesboro News-Virginian, remembered his grandfather who had given the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day when he parachuted in over enemy territory.

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Memorial Day … remembering an uncle killed in WW II Germany

??????????By Lynn R. Mitchell

Memorial Day is a time for my family to remember the uncle I never knew, Clarence Franklin Osborne, who was born on August 1, 1917, and killed in action in Germany during the closing days of World War II, on March 21, 1945. He was 27 years old. Married for five years, he left behind a young widow but no children. My mom was in her final year as a student at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, Virginia.

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Patriotism or Perversion?

Wayne OzmoreBy Wayne Ozmore
Guest Post

As I continue to see a leader of the local Tea Party Patriot movement fly the U.S. Flag upside down, I take solace in the words of Simon Wiesenthal–a prolific hero of mine and people the world over. Wiesenthal was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camp located at Mauthausen. As a child, I wrote many book reports on the success of Wiesenthal’s efforts to track and hunt down fugitive Nazi’s after WWII. Here, in his own words from a speech he gave on August 5, 1980, is what Simon Wiesenthal said about the US Flag as American troops liberated him from the death camp in 1945:

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